Last week, France Football released the list of nominees for this year's Ballon d'Or, and many were shocked to see that Lionel Messi, the current holder, was not in the running for the best men's player award. However, the Argentine himself is not bothered by the snub, and has backed Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema to bring home the prize.

Over the past decade and a half, the Ballon 'd Or bounced back and forth between Messi and his eternal rival, Cristiano Ronaldo. The pair won a total of 12 awards between them since 2008, with Luka Modric being the only man to break the streak back in 2018.

This year, with Messi out of the running, Ronaldo has the opportunity to close the gap. However, Manchester United's disastrous season does not bode well for the Portuguese star. There is no doubt that his former Real Madrid teammate Karim Benzema is the favourite, and even Messi thinks there is no other option.

"I think this year there are no doubts, it is clear that Benzema had a spectacular year," said Messi, in an interview quoted by Marca. "He ended up consecrating that year with the Champions League, being fundamental from the Round of 16 onwards in every game. I don't think there are doubts this year."

Indeed, Benzema rescued Los Blancos right from the grave on more than one occasion in the knockout stages of the Champions League this year. In La Liga, he was one of the most overworked players in Carlo Ancelotti's squad, and was instrumental in leading them to their 35th domestic league title.

Throughout the past season, Benzema scored 44 goals and made 15 assists in 46 appearances.

On the rare occasion that the Frenchman had to be sidelined, Real Madrid really felt the pinch. They lost the first leg of the UCL round-of-16 clash against PSG before Benzema returned to score a hat-trick in the second leg.

He was also absent in Real Madrid's 4-0 El Clasico loss late in the season. Needless to say, at this point France Football will face a lot of questions if the award ends up with someone else.

Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema scored the winner as Real Madrid fought back to reach the Champions League final AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU